Getting around in Istanbul: info, costs and advice

Who I am
Martí Micolau
@martimicolau
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

Ancient Constantinople is a magical place where East and West meet. Millennia of history, tradition, culture and art are enclosed in this magnificent city. A truly special place to experience a fascinating cultural melting pot that is difficult to find elsewhere. Istanbul is a real megalopolis which, with its 15.000.000 inhabitants, is considered the most populous city in Europe. Located in the northwest of Turkey, the city stretches along the Bosphorus Strait, and is one of the travel destinations worth visiting at least once in a lifetime.

But how to move in this particular city also from the point of view of the urban conformation? Here's one guide on how to get around in Istanbul: info, costs and advice!



Index

  1. Useful Tips
  2. How to get from the airport to the center of Istanbul
  3. How to get around on foot
  4. Con i mezzi pubblici
  5. By car
  6. User questions and comments

Useful Tips

The best way to fully experience and breathe the atmosphere of everyday life in Istanbul is definitely to move on foot. Tuttavia, moving in such a large and chaotic city can be confusing at a first approach: the advice is to take a guided tour of the city to settle in, identify the landmarks and learn about the history and main attractions. Do not miss a cruise on the Bosphorus with a local guide.

To move between the various districts of the city, it is better to use public transport (often very crowded). Of all, better metro, trams and ferries, the bus is not recommended. There is no subscription, neither daily nor weekly. There is only a monthly pass (Mavi Kart) reserved only for Turkish citizens or residents of Turkey or the City Card for 5 or 10 rides on public transport, including metro, funicular, tram, bus and ferry.

If you are staying in the city for a few days, it is very convenient there IstanbulKart, a rechargeable magnetic card that can be purchased and recharged at kiosks, shops or automatic machines, valid on all vehicles and which allows you to enjoy a discount on the price of a single journey.



  • Recommended solutions and means: on foot, metro, tram, ferry, funicular
  • Solutions and means not recommended: bus, taxi, car
  • City cards and season tickets recommended: IstanbulKart (from 10,00 TL / € 1,30 -), Istanbul City Card (from € 10,00 -)

How to get from the airport to the center of Istanbul

Istanbul is served by two airports, the main one being theIstanbul new airport where most of the international flights from Europe land. The second airport of the city is theSabiha Gokcen International Airport. Both are well connected to Italy, with numerous direct flights.

There is also a third airport, the historic one Ataturk Airport (ISL), which since April 2019 has become an airport for cargo flights and private flights only.

From Istanbul New Airport to the center

  • Distance from the center: 50 km / travel time: 1 hour;
  • By metro: Line M11 from Airport to Gayrettepe station in the Şişli district
  • By taxi: average cost 230,00 LT (€ 30,00) / travel time: 45 min
  • By bus: average cost 18,00 LT (€ 2,35) / IST 1-S and IST-19 lines
  • Private transfer: transfer hotel / airport and vice versa

From Sabiha Gökçen International Airport to the center

  • Distance from the center: 40 km / travel time: from 45 to 60 min depending on traffic;
  • By taxi: average cost 190,00 LT (€ 25,00) / travel time: 30 min
  • By bus: average cost 8,00 TL (€ 1,00) / E3 line
  • In shuttle: average cost 13,00 TL (€ 1,70) / line of the Hatavas Company
  • Private transfer: transfer hotel / airport and vice versa

How to get around on foot

The best way to get around the streets of the center is on foot. This will allow you to discover the most hidden and winding alleys of the city. However, moving in such a large and chaotic city can be confusing at a first approach: the advice is to take a guided tour of the city to settle in, identify the landmarks and learn about the history and main attractions.

You can stroll among the main attractions of Sultanahmet, all close to each other: the Topkapi Palace, the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque (possibility to participate in a guided tour of the Blue Mosque and the old city). Our advice is to find accommodation in this area of ​​the city to be able to easily move on foot between the main tourist destinations in the city.



Con i mezzi pubblici

Istanbul's public transport system is quite convenient, although getting around at rush hour can sometimes be quite difficult always very busy. To move around the city, you can use the metro, buses and trams, taxis, as well as ferries and funiculars.

We point out that public transport in Istanbul is not connected to each other and does not apply a single fare system: therefore, the price of tickets varies depending on the vehicle. Furthermore, there is no subscription for the means of transport, neither daily nor weekly. On many of the public transports you can use the coin (jeton) plastic and red color. The cost of a token is 5,00 TL (€ 0,65) and can be purchased at the numerous machines or kiosks located at the tram, metro or ferry stops.

We therefore recommend purchasing the Istanbul City Card, which includes 5 or 10 rides on public transport (depending on the option selected), including metro, funicular, tram, bus and ferry.

Metropolitan

Recently built, the inauguration dates back to 2009, it is not yet very widespread, but it allows avoid road traffic and get around the city rather quickly.

To date it consists of 3 lines: line M1 connects Atatürk airport to Aksaray; the M2 line, on the other hand, crosses the European side of Istanbul from north to south. The terminus are Haciosman, to the north, and Yenikapi, to the south, where the port terminal is located. The M2 line is certainly the most interesting for tourists, as it connects Taksim with the historical peninsula, passing over the Golden Horn. Under construction M5 and M7.



  • Downloadable map: istanbul-metro-map
  • from 6:00 am to midnight
  • Ticket / single ride cost: a 5,00 LT token (€ 0,65)

Bus

Despite being the means of transport cheaper to move around Istanbul, the bus is the less recommended for tourists. Used mostly by residents, it is rather complicated to use. Just think that in the city there are approx 500 lines, 3.000 buses and 8.000 stops! It is not very intuitive to disentangle the various destinations and, what's more, buses do not run from Sultanahmet, the area of ​​greatest attraction for tourists.

There are various kinds by bus. Those of the Municipality in white-red (the older ones), green (the most modern) and purple (the eco-friendly ones introduced recently and which should gradually replace all the others). The blue buses, on the other hand, are half privatized, but fully integrated into the public system and implement the same fares, so there is no difference for users.

I Tickets for public buses they can be purchased in the points of sale marked with the words "IETT" or "Bilet", but they are not present in all the stops. Private buses, in addition to accepting the same tickets as public buses, accept cash directly on board.

  • from 6:00 to midnight. Some lines are active 24 hours a day
  • Ticket / single ride cost: 5,00 LT (€ 0,65)
  • Cost of ticket booklet / season ticket: two trips 8,00 LT (€ 1,04), 5 trips 17,00 LT (€ 2,20), 10 trips 32,00 LT (€ 4,17)

Tram

Molto popular with tourists, the tram connects the main attractions, historical sites of the city and the piers from which ferries depart. Modern, functional, fast and punctual (one starts every 5 min), it is structured on 2 lines.

The T1 line passes through Sultanahmet and touches many important destinations in the old city, which is why it is absolutely recommended. There line T2 instead it connects the Tünel metro stop to Taksim square.

We also point out a historical line, the Nostalgic Tram, nostalgic tram, dating back to the 20s in a beautiful bright red: ideal for a panoramic tour of the city. The historic tram is in service from 7:00 to 20:00.

  • Downloadable map: istanbul-tram-map
  • from 6:00 am to midnight
  • Ticket / single ride cost: a 5,00 LT token (€ 0,65)

Taxi

Istanbul is one of the cities with highest number of taxis in the world. It is a means much used by the inhabitants themselves because it is very convenient. Present everywhere, Istanbul taxis are recognized by their classic yellow color.

As mentioned, the costs are quite cheap: the basic fare is 13,00 TL (€ 1,70) + 3,00 TL (€ 0,39) for each kilometer. But beware of traffic, so as not to risk getting stuck, avoid taking it at peak times, and at the meter, avoid taxis that do not use it. Finally Indicate the destination on the map: many taxi drivers do not speak English.

  • 24 hours on 24
  • Ticket / single ride cost: 13,00 TL (€ 1,70) + 3,00 TL (€ 0,39) for each km

DOLMUŞ

It is mini-buses that have the function of collective taxis. They make specific routes and leave one after the other as soon as they are full (the term dolmuş itself means "full"). There are therefore no timetables.

The most typical are yellow in color and have a capacity of 8 seats, but they are also widespread those with 15 seats of light blue color. The most useful routes are Taksim-Kadıköy and Taksim-Beşiktaş.

  • 24 hours on 24
  • Ticket / single ride cost: base rate of 6,90 TL (€ 0,90)

ferry

An alternative way, but also very characteristic and suggestive, to visit Istanbul is the ferry. Ferries connect the European part of the city to the Asian one, through the Strait of the Bosphorus. The boats are called vapurs and are quite frequent, although quite slow.

There are 3 lines most used by tourists: from the piers of Eminönü, Karaköy, Kabataş and Beşiktas, in Europe, connections to Kadıkoy and Üsküdar, in Asia, depart every 20 minutes; the second line connects Üsküdar and Eyup, making several stopovers on both sides of the Golden Horn, departing every hour. Finally, there is the line that goes from Kabataş to the Princes' Islands, with about ten trips a day. Each pier has its own ticket office to buy tickets. The timetable of the ferries is reduced compared to other transports. Check the timetable directly at the landing stage not to run the risk of not being able to go back!

If you want to opt for a panoramic and relaxing tour, cruises on the Bosphorus are so many and of many different types! You can also opt for a dinner cruise with entertainment or a sunset cruise on a luxury yacht!

  • 7:00 to 20:00, depending on the line. Some companies until 21:00
  • Ticket / single ride cost: rates vary according to the route. From one bank to the other they cost around 1,50 TL (€ 0,20), tourist boats from 7,50 TL (€ 1,00)

Funicular

Another very characteristic means of the city are the funiculars. In Istanbul there are 3 lines of funiculars that allow you to quickly reach different points of the city!

La Tunnel is the underground funicular, inaugurated in 1875, which represents the second oldest underground urban line in the world (after the London underground). It connects the Karaköy district, near the Galata Bridge, to the Beyoğlu district. There Füniküler Taksim-KabatasOn the other hand, it is a recent line, which connects Kabatas, where the tram terminus and the ferry dock are located, to Taksim Square in two minutes. Finally, the Eyüp-Pierre Loti, a line that starts from the port of Eyüp, to arrive at the top of the Pierre Loti hill, from which you can enjoy a splendid view of the city.

  • Tünel from 7:00 to 22:45; Füniküler Taksim-Kabatas from 6:15 am to midnight; Eyüp-Pierre Loti from 8:00 to 22:00
  • Ticket / single ride cost: Tünel 1,00 TL (€ 0,13); Füniküler Taksim-Kabatas and Eyüp-Pierre Loti one token

By car

Istanbul has the fame of city ​​of impossible traffic. So getting around the city by car, whether yours or rented, is really not recommended! Traffic is certainly considerable, especially in the major city junctions and near bridges.

Driving in Istanbul is objectively dangerous not only for the intensity of traffic but also for the driving style: the use of arrows is an optional and often high speeds are reached. Not at least, petrol is among the most expensive in the world.

In short, driving in Istanbul is a stressful, costly experience with no real benefits. Given the efficiency of public transport, this is a choice we do not recommend.

ZTL

Sultanahmet, the most interesting tourist area, has limited traffic. The whole area that includes the square, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, is completely a pedestrian area. You cannot therefore access it by car, but you have to park it a little outside the neighborhood. You can choose to leave your car in the parking lot of your hotel or find a parking lot not too far from the area (for example in Kadirga) and then move between the various attractions on foot or by public transport.

As far as the times, in the limited traffic areas it is possible to enter after 18:00 and exit in the morning by 10:00.

Stops and parking

In addition to traffic, another factor that discourages car use in Istanbul is the difficulty in finding parking. The best choice is to stay in a hotel with parking, where you can leave your car and get around by public transport. Alternatively, you can park in one of the many car parks in Sultanahmet (or just outside) and then explore the area on foot. Prices vary, but take into account an average of around 77,00 / 115,00 TL per day (about € 10,00 / 15,00).

If you decide to look for street parking, there are some things to know to avoid parking in forbidden places and get a fine on your return. Car park is the word that means parking in Turkish, but it is not possible to find it indicated anywhere. The Park Yapilmaz sign means that parking is not allowed there your car. The car parks are managed by IsPark; normally there is one per district, however it is very difficult to find a place during peak hours. Even if you see cars parked everywhere (mainly by local people), avoid doing it so as not to run into penalties.


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